Last night I had a dream about a footrace. The runners ran along a long stretch of road. If they took a bottle or cup of water from a passerby, they had to carry it for the rest of the race or they would forfeit.
One runner was seconds away from winning when she realized she no longer had the water she had taken sometime earlier.
She ran back to the person who had given it to her, took another cup, and started running again towards the finish line. She was now behind a number of the runners.
It looked like all was lost when suddenly she was again ahead of the pack, the ribbon across the finish line within her reach. Holding the cup steadily she ran fast and strong.
And won the race!
It seemed like one of those nonsensical dreams. I am not a runner nor have I ever been. I rarely watch sporting events. A runner, a race, a setback, and still she won. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a metaphor here?
Often I read posts, usually at online support sites, where someone has written, “I am at my wit’s end. I have tried every medication. There is nothing left for me to do.”
They are bereft or ready to try more drastic measures, often surgery or treatments that come with very high risks.
I invariably reply with my story about my experience with the drug Tegretol, an anticonvulsant often considered diagnostic for trigeminal neuralgia.
The first time I took it, I had a terrible time. It did nothing for my pain and the side effects were horrendous; spatial hallucinations and problems with my balance. I could not find my words and when I did they were often slurred. I was very groggy and could barely stay awake. It was awful.
Yet for some reason, I agreed to try it three more times, over a one and half year period. Each time the side effects were less and I had more and more benefit. The fourth time was the charm. It worked completely; all the spontaneous and triggered tic pains were gone. And I had no side effects.
If we only aim for the finish line, if we see the direction only as linear, refusing to veer off or retrace our steps, we may miss what else can or needs to be done, or re-done. We take the “water” (medication and/or treatment) offered, but if they don’t work the first time we may refuse to see that getting the benefit (our finish line) may require us to zigzag or go back over old ground.
Refusing to see that it may be worth redoing, giving up in despair, or allowing treatments that may not get us to the finish line intact, or at all, can be a bad choice. Sometimes it is necessary to return and retrace our steps.
Going back doesn’t necessarily mean giving up or regressing. It could be the backward step that gets us closer to or even across the finish line to a life with less pain.
Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.